Google was using Facebook Research-like app for gathering user data on iOS, but has now shut it down

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Google building

Facebook isn’t the only company using Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program to distribute a data-collecting app to users.

A Google app called Screenwise Meter has been discovered that, like Facebook’s Research app, uses enterprise certificates on iOS to get installed on users’ devices. Google has a support page for Screenwise Meter that walks you through the process of installing it, and it includes steps like going into the Profiles & Device Management section of your iPhone’s Settings app and confirming that you trust Google so that the app can be used.

As noted by TechCrunch, Screenwise Meter has been around since 2012, and it was previously open to users as young as 13. Now users must be 18 or older, though people as young as 13 can join as secondary panelists in the family.

Google Screenwise Meter iOS app

Google has posted a video explaining its research program and how it collects data to understand what users like and don’t like. The program does offer a “Guest Mode” that can be enabled when you don’t want their data to be tracked. When enrolled in the program, users accrue reward points that can be redeemed for e-gift cards. In addition to being available on iOS, Google’s Screenwise Meter app is available on Android.

In a statement about its Screenwise Meter app, Google has said that it “should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program”. The company went on to apologize and say that it has disabled Screenwise Meter on iOS devices. Here’s Google’s full statement to TechCrunch:

“The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program — this was a mistake, and we apologize. We have disabled this app on iOS devices. This app is completely voluntary and always has been. We’ve been upfront with users about the way we use their data in this app, we have no access to encrypted data in apps and on devices, and users can opt out of the program at any time.”

Apple hasn’t commented on this Screenwise Meter app for iOS yet. While Google does seem to be more clear about its app and what it’s doing, the company was still using Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program and enterprise certificates to distribute a data-collecting app to users. Considering that Apple came out today and revoked Facebook’s enterprise certificates because of its Facebook Research app, it’ll be interesting to see how Apple reacts to this news.



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